The War on Terror is expected to last another 20 years at least, another 20 years of military expenditure, debt, death and destruction and for what? Our safety? Spreading democracy? Or for furthering an agenda through ridiculous propaganda? A look at history courtesy of The peoples history shows a different narrative but you can make up your own mind.
Days after the July 7 2005 London terror attack, and less than a month before his death, the Right Honorable Robin Cook, former UK Foreign Secretary, wrote a scathing yet emotional review of the War on Terror in The Guardian.
Bin Laden was, though, a product of a monumental miscalculation by western security agencies. Throughout the 80s he was armed by the CIA and funded by the Saudis to wage jihad against the Russian occupation of Afghanistan. Al-Qaida, literally “the database”, was originally the computer file of the thousands of mujahideen who were recruited and trained with help from the CIA to defeat the Russians. Inexplicably, and with disastrous consequences, it never appears to have occurred to Washington that once Russia was out of the way, Bin Laden’s organisation would turn its attention to the west.
Compiled in this essay is a collection of information comprised of ~75 mainstream sources and documents that when pieced together validate Robin Cook’s claims with a broader scope of dismantling the ‘official narrative’ of the War on Terror.
“They [the CIA] told me these people were fanatical, and the more fierce they were the more fiercely they would fight the Soviets,” he said. “I warned them that we were creating a monster.”- Scholar Selig Harrison
The story begins with Operation Cyclone, which originated in 1978 around the time of the Saur Revolution, whereby the communist People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan gained control of the government. The CIA immediately began funding militant Islamic groups favored by the Pakistani intelligence agency ISI, to the tune of 7.5 billion. The money went to producing, training, and arming militant Islamic radicals. At the time, the Mujahideen was composed of many different, loosely organized groups encompassing a broad spectrum of ideologies, with widely diverse perspectives on religion, society and state . 7 major Afghan factions began receiving aid, three of them Islamic moderates and four of them Islamic fundamentalists, and in addition to native Afghans they were composed of many foreigners who traveled to fight the invasion, such as Osama bin Laden himself. To understand the scope of the funding, the CIA provided enough arms to equip a 240,000 man army, and Saudi Arabia matched them dollar for dollar. The majority of the funding was funneled through the ISI, who began setting up religious schools known as Madrassas in Pakistan cities and frontier areas, churning out tens of thousands of students who would join the Mujahideen.
The weapons given to these fighters were not just AK-47s and other simple arms. They were high tech, such as Stinger Anti-Aircraft missiles, with the intention of demoralizing Soviet commanders and soldiers.
All of this began before the Soviets invaded Russia. A full 6 months, according to Zbigniew Brzezinski, who recalled his involvement to a French news magazine in 1998: “We didn’t push the Russians to intervene, but we knowingly increased the probability that they would… That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Soviets into the Afghan trap. The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border I wrote to President Carter, ‘We now have the opportunity of giving the Soviet Union its Vietnam War.'”
(Some memos from Brzezinski to Carter reflecting on the Afghanistan Invasion, for those who enjoy primary documents)
Osama bin Laden- From Mujahideen to Al Qaeda
Bin Laden’s group in the Mujahideen was called Maktab al-Khidamat, abbreviated as MAK. It is frequently claimed that the CIA directly funded this group, though top CIA officers say that this is not the case. It has been confirmed, at least, that the MAK did receive funding from the ISI, the CIA’s primary conduit for conducting their covert war against Russia.
CIA Station Chief in Afghanistan Milt Bearden has stated that he was well aware of Bin Laden in the Mujahideen, and welcomed his efforts in funding, though he never met with him personally. Bin Laden also brought in construction equipment from his fathers company Saudi Binladen Group, considered the largest construction firm in the world, to build training camps, in collaboration with the ISI and CIA.
In 1986, Osama used his construction assets to build a CIA financed tunnel complex to serve as a major arms depot, training facility and medical depo for the Mujahideen in the Peshwar mountains near Pakistan, that would be later used by Al Qaeda.
Al Qaeda was formed sometime between 1987-88, with the radical elements of MAK joining after the latter group split.
The origins of the Taliban can be traced back to the Mujahideen. The Taliban is actively involved with al-Qaeda as well, a widely reported fact confirmed by such documents as this 1998 State Department cable claiming that “Taliban Leader Mullah Omar lashed out at the US, asserting that the Taliban will continue providing a safe haven for Bin Laden.”
There is plenty of evidence that Pakistan’s ISI currently actively funds the Taliban and other terrorist cells, while barring the US military from operating in the tribal areas. This is hugely significant because since 9/11, the United States has given Pakistan over $15 billion, much of which goes to the ISI and military.
Vice President Joe Biden said himself in 2003 that the ISI was either turning a blind eye or cooperating with the Taliban. The linked New York Times article further states that some members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee contend “contend that the intelligence service may have provided money, weapons and broadcast equipment to Taliban fighters now in Pakistan to transmit anti-Karzai, anti-American messages into Afghanistan.”
BBC has reported on a secret NATO report which notes: “Pakistan’s manipulation of the Taliban senior leadership continues unabatedly”.
A report published by the London School of Economics gave 9 in depth interviews with Taliban insurgent commanders. They suggest that the ISI has members on the Taliban leadership council, though they expressed fear of assassination if they went into to much depth on this topic.
A 2009 New York Times article noted that the ISI was giving the Taliban money, military supplies, and strategic guidance, citing US officials. This occurred during the same time that Obama was beginning his troop surge and within months of a $7.5 billion US aid package to Pakistan, with the military and ISI being the primary recipients according to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Thus US funding was not only putting troops in harms way, but also actively contributing to the proliferation of the danger they faced.
US and UK Let Bin Laden run Amok
A 2001 Washington Post article states that in 1996, the government of Sudan offered to keep tabs on Osama, or if that did not suffice, arrest him and hand him over to either the United States or Saudi custody.
“The Sudanese security services, he said, would happily keep close watch on bin Laden for the United States. But if that would not suffice, the government was prepared to place him in custody and hand him over, though to whom was ambiguous. In one formulation, Erwa said Sudan would consider any legitimate proffer of criminal charges against the accused terrorist.” Their negotiations concluded as such: “”We said he will go to Afghanistan, and they [US officials!] said, ‘Let him.'”
The Clinton administration claimed that they lacked criminal charges to pin on Bin Laden, though this is a farce, as within a year ago previous they had named him as a co-conspirator in the World Trade Center bombing, among other terrorist activities. And the Clinton administration would commit egregious war crimes such as the bombing of the Sudanese Al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory on much flimsier pretenses.
Interestingly, the pretext of the Al-Shifa bombing is that the factory had ties to Bin Laden, in the very country that had proposed to extradite him.
A 2002 article in The Guardian reveals that the first INTERPOL arrest warrant for Bin Laden came from Libya in 1998. It also uncovers that the MI6 paid large sums of money to an Al Qaeda cell in Libya in a failed attempt to assassinate Muammar Gaddafi. This is why US and UK intelligence agencies apparently buried the fact that Libya had issued the warrant for Bin Ladens arrest and downplayed the threat. 5 months after the arrest warrant was issued, Al Qaeda killed over 200 people in bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
United States Trained Jihadists
It has been widely reported that some Islamic fundamentalists were trained in the United States in the 1980’s, by way of Camp Peary, the CIA spy base in Virginia, being flown in from places such as Jordan, Egypt and even Africa.
One specifically interesting case is that of Egyptian Ali Muhammed. He was a part of the fundamentalist military unit that assassinated Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981. In 1984, he was hired by the CIA, though they claim that their relationship was short-lived. He would soon join the military and become a member of the Green Berets, and serve as a drill sergeant at Fort Bragg while providing clandestine training to jihadists such as Mahmud Abaouhalima, convicted perpetrator of the 1993 World Trade Center bombings.
He would take a short leave from his military duties and travel to Afghanistan in 1988 to assist the Mujahideen, returning just months later.
In the early 1990’s he would return to Afghanistan and began training jihadists with the skills he had learned at Fort Bragg. According to former FBI special agent Jack Cloonan, in an interview with PBS, his first training session included Osama bin Laden, as well as Ayman al-Zawahiri, the current leader of Al Qaeda.
Former Directors of Counter-terrorism at the National Security Council have alleged that Muhammed took maps and training materials from Fort Bragg and used them to write the Al Qaeda terrorist training manual.
His superior at Fort Bragg, Lt. Col. Robert Anderson, has stated that “I think you or I would have a better chance of winning the Powerball lottery, than an Egyptian major in the unit that assassinated Sadat would have getting a visa, getting to California, getting into the Army and getting assigned to a Special Forces unit. That just doesn’t happen.”
Elsewhere he stated that “It was unthinkable that an ordinary American GI would go unpunished after fighting in a foreign war,” and that he assumed that Muhammed was sponsored by the CIA.
Al Qaeda, Mujahideen and America Fighting on the Same Side
In 2011, NATO, led by Barack Obama and the United States, initiated military action against Libya by enforcing a No Fly Zone and carried out numerous air strikes, including one against Libyan state TV which killed 3 journalists. Downplayed in Western media was the fact that the ‘rebels’ consisted of various factions of radical Islamists, many who had been fighting Gaddafi for decades and had their roots in the Mujahideen in Afghanistan, such as the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, who’s goal is to implement an Islamic state. CNN has reported on widespread abuses against civilians from these groups after Gaddafi was ousted from power, including the use of landmines and other deadly equipment. Many of the rebels have admitted links to Al Qaeda, who has declared support for the rebels in Libya.
The Washington Post has reported that a former Al Qaeda member has estimated there to be 1000 ‘freelance jihadists’ that have traveled to Libya to support the rebels, many affiliated with al-Qaeda, and also that Libya has one of the highest domestic al-Qaeda populations in the Middle East, quoting a 2007 West Point study on the subject.
In 1999, the United States decided to support the Kosovo Liberation Army, allies of Al Qaeda. Bill Clinton framed the intervention in humanitarian terms though staggering atrocities were being committed on both sides. French News Agency AFP reported that members of the KLA had been trained by Bin Laden, and the Washington Times reported that the KLA bankrolled their operations with funds from the heroin trade in Afghanistan and had accepted money from Bin Laden himself.
The Mujahideen, many specifically members of Al Qaeda, were also instrumental in Bosnia during the NATO intervention in 1993. Their presence is still a factor of instability today.
It is of significance that all of these associations occurred after the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, when Al Qaeda became significant in the American lexicon.
Now, in 2013, Obama is arming rebels in Syria, beginning secretly with CIA arms airlifts in 2012, citing many of the same reasons for intervention that Clinton did in 1999, despite domestic and foreign ally opposition. Once again, many of the rebels have been associated with Al Qaeda and labeled terrorist organizations by the US.
The Role of Madrassas
Earlier I mentioned CIA funded Madrassas being a source of Islamic radicalism in the 1980’s. They have been an important factor in the radicalization of Islam ever since. As of 2008, there are ~750 madrassas in Pakistan that teach jihad and radicalism, about 10% of all madrassas in the country. Cables from Wikileaks revealed that the funding for these radical schools now comes from Saudi Arabia, the United States biggest ally in the region. The radical madrassa network exploits impoverished areas by recruiting children to what essentially amounts to indoctrination camps. In exchange, families receive upwards of $6,500 per son for their ‘sacrifice to Islam’, and during schooling contact with families is forbidden. After graduation, many are funneled into terrorist training camps in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, the cables revealed.
You can read them here.
PBS Frontline did a story on a 16 year old who was recruited to a Pakistan Wahabbi Islam Madrassa from an impoverished area in East Africa. A few years later, he was instrumental in a terror plot, blowing up the US Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya. The PBS site hosts a letter he wrote to his brother, in which he says he spent two years on a military base learning warfare, including the usage of Israeli arms.
Is the CIA stil involved? The House of Saud has given at least $1.474 billion dollars to the Bush family, and the United States sold Saudi Arabia 60 billions dollars worth of arms in 2010, the biggest arms sale in American history. Before he was president, George H.W. Bush was the Director of the CIA. As recently as June 25th, 2013, Secretary of State John Kerry announced that Saudi Arabia is ‘one of our closest partners’. At the very least we can establish complicity.
The assassination of high-profile Pakistan tribal leader Qari Zainuddin was widely reported in the Western media. Only days before his assassination he had removed his support of the Taliban, claiming that their actions were un-Islamic. What the Western media neglected to report but was widely reported in Pakistan and other countries was Zainuddin had claimed that Baitullah Mehsud, the man who ordered his assassination, was an American agent.
The claim that American agents operate in the Taliban sounds far-fetched but there have been some eye-opening reports that confirm the possibility.
A 2004 article in the UK publication Times Online reported that a high ranking Al Qaeda member had been revealed to be a double agent working for MI5.
“Abu Qatada boasted to MI5 that he could prevent terrorist attacks and offered to expose dangerous extremists, while all along he was setting up a haven for his terror organisation in Britain.”
Abu Qatada has been imprisoned multiple times in Britain but has not been charged with any crimes. During his career he has issued fatwahs justifying the killing of converts from Islam, advocated the killing of Jews, praised attacks on America, and convicted of charges of terrorism in Jordan.
A 2002 article published by French news organization AFP states that Palestine security forces had arrested a group of Palestinians who had confessed to collaborating with Israel and posing as operatives of Al Qaeda.
He [Palestinian Authority Official] said the alleged collaborators sought to “discredit the Palestinian people, justify every Israeli crime and provide reasons to carry out a new (military) aggression in the Gaza Strip.”
The arrest came just two days after Ariel Sharon claimed that al-Qaeda militants were operating in Gaza and Lebanon. BBC has also reported on this story.
Bin Laden: Holes in the story of becoming enemies with the United States
The official story is that Bin Laden and his Al Qaeda found new enemies in the US after the Cold War when the United States began occupying military bases in Saudi Arabia.
In 1993, Scott Armstrong, at the time the top investigative reporter for the Washington Post, gave some tremendously revealing interviews with PBS Frontline. In an episode titled “The Arming of Saudi Arabia”, he stated that the United States and Saudi Arabia had jointly conspired to covertly build $200 billion worth of military installations between the years 1979 and 1992. Steve Coll, eminent Bin Laden biographer, states that the Binladen group received a multitude of these contracts, with the knowing intent to support to house US military personal during wars that may threaten Saudi territory.
As sourced earlier, this occurred during the same time that Osama bin Laden was actively using Binladen Group assets to build extensive infrastructure in Afghanistan. Surely he was aware of the construction of the military bases and who intended to occupy them, yet he did not have a problem then with the prospect.
Money and the War on Terror
During the peak of World War II, military and defense spending reached a rate of over 40% of the United States Gross Domestic Product. Even after a massive demobilization, the military-industrial complex had grown to a behemoth, averaging over 7% of GDP throughout the Cold War. According to the Cato Institute, the United States spent a total of $6 trillion in just 4 decades during the Cold War, a staggering sum.
After the Soviet Union was defeated the Military Industrial Complex experienced a steady decline, accounting for just 3.7% of GDP in the year 2000. But after 9/11, the Complex found that they could turn their old friends into new enemies to fight, and their percentage of GDP has more than doubled in the last decade.
Congress has officially authorized more than 1.3 trillion dollars to fight the war on terror, and a Brown University study says this is just the tip of the iceberg: Even if the War on Terror were to begin de-escalating now, it would end up costing a total of 3.9 trillion between domestic spending, veterans costs, and interest.
Al Qaeda today
In 2003, Donald Rumsfeld wrote a memo to the Joint Chiefs of Staff where he stated that ““We need to stop populating Guantanamo Bay with low-level enemy combatants.” The memo was uncovered in 2011. Over 750 prisoners have gone through Guantanamo, most being released without charges. Of the ~160 prisoners in Guantanamo Bay today, half have been cleared for release.
Then-CIA Director Leon Panetta said in 2010 that there were less than 100 Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.
After trillions of dollars spent, hundreds of thousands of deaths, repeated domestic infringements, we are left with only a handful of proven Al Qaeda members, with a majority of prisoners simply being held without charges.
Does this make any sense to you?
The people of the world are being lied to by those with an incentive to maintain militarism and hegemony. The first step towards dismantling the beast that has been created is to become informed and then inform.
A cracking little story by Michael Snyder of The Economic Collapse blog:
Did you know that you are involved in the most massive Ponzi scheme that has ever existed? To illustrate my point, allow me to tell you a little story.
Once upon a time, there was a man named Sam. When he was younger, he had been a very principled young man that had worked incredibly hard and that had built a large number of tremendously successful businesses. He became fabulously wealthy and he accumulated far more gold than anyone else on the planet. But when he started to get a little older he forgot the values of his youth. He started making really bad decisions and some of his relatives started to take advantage of him. One particularly devious relative was a nephew named Fred. One day Fred approached his uncle Sam with a scheme that his friends the bankers had come up with. What happened next would change the course of Sam’s life forever.
Even though Sam was the wealthiest man in the world by far, Fred convinced Sam that he could have an even higher standard of living by going into a little bit of debt. In exchange for IOUs issued by his uncle Sam, Fred would give him paper notes that he printed off on his printing press. Since the paper notes would be backed by the gold that Sam was holding, everyone would consider them to be valuable. Sam could take those paper notes and spend them on whatever his heart desired. Uncle Sam started to do this, and he started to become addicted to all of the nice things that those paper notes would buy him.
Fred took the IOUs that he received from his uncle and he auctioned them off to the bankers. But there was a problem. The IOUs issued by Uncle Sam had to be paid back with interest. When the time came to pay back the IOUs, Uncle Sam could not afford to pay back the debts, pay the interest on those debts, and buy all of the nice things that he wanted. So Uncle Sam issued even more IOUs than before so that he could get enough notes to pay off his debts. As time rolled on, this pattern just kept on repeating. Uncle Sam repeatedly paid off his old debts by taking out even larger new debts.
Meanwhile, since the notes that Uncle Sam was using were backed by gold, everyone else in the world decided to start using them to trade with one another. This was greatly beneficial to Uncle Sam, because the rest of the world was glad to send him oil, home electronics, plastic trinkets and anything else that Uncle Sam wanted in exchange for his gold-backed notes.
Eventually, however, the rest of the world started to suspect that the number of gold-backed notes that Uncle Sam was issuing far exceeded the amount of gold that Uncle Sam actually had. So the rest of the world started to trade in their notes for gold.
And by that time Uncle Sam definitely did not have enough gold to back up his notes. Realizing that the scheme was starting to collapse, one day Uncle Sam announced that his notes would no longer be backed by gold. But he insisted that the rest of the world should continue using his notes because he was the wealthiest man on the planet and everyone should just trust him.
And the rest of the world did continue to trust him, although it wasn’t the same as before.
As Uncle Sam got greedier and greedier, he started to issue IOUs and spend notes at a rate that nobody ever dreamed possible. The great businesses that Uncle Sam had built when he was younger were starting to decline, and Uncle Sam started buying far more stuff from the rest of the world than they bought from him. The rest of the world was still glad to take Uncle Sam’s notes because they used them to trade with one another, but they started accumulating far more notes than they actually needed.
Not sure exactly what to do with mountains of these notes, the rest of the world started to loan them back to Uncle Sam. It eventually got to the point where Uncle Sam owed the rest of the world trillions of these notes. Even though the notes were losing value at a rate of close to 10 percent a year, Uncle Sam somehow convinced the rest of the world to loan him notes at an average rate of interest of less than 3 percent a year.
One day Uncle Sam woke up and realized that the amount of debt that he owed was now more than 5000 times larger than it was when Fred had first approached him with this ill-fated scheme. Uncle Sam now owed more than 16 trillion notes to his creditors, and Uncle Sam had already made future financial commitments of 202 trillion notes that he would never be able to pay. Meanwhile, the notes that Fred had been printing up for Uncle Sam were now worth less than 5 percent of their original value. Uncle Sam was becoming concerned because some of his other relatives were warning that this whole scheme was about to collapse.
Sadly, Uncle Sam did not listen to them. Uncle Sam knew that if he admitted how fraudulent the financial scheme was, the rest of the world would quit sending him all of the things that he needed in exchange for his notes and they would quit lending his notes back to him at super low interest rates.
And if the rest of the world lost confidence in his notes and quit using them, Uncle Sam knew that his standard of living would go way, way down. That was something that Uncle Sam could not bear to have happen.
When a financial crisis almost caused the scheme to crash in 2008, a desperate Uncle Sam went to Fred and asked for help. In response, Fred started printing up far more notes than ever before and started directly buying up large amounts of IOUs from Uncle Sam with the notes that he was creating out of thin air. Fred hoped that the rest of the world would not notice what he was doing.
It seemed to work for a little while, but then an even worse financial crisis came along. Once again, Uncle Sam started issuing massive amounts of new IOUs and Fred started printing up giant mountains of new notes to try to fix things, but their desperate attempts to keep the system going were to no avail. The rest of the world started to realize that they had been sucked into a massive Ponzi scheme, and they lost confidence in the notes that Uncle Sam was using. Suddenly nobody wanted to lend notes to Uncle Sam at super low interest rates anymore, and people started asking for far more notes in exchange for the things that Uncle Sam wanted.
Uncle Sam’s standard of living dropped dramatically. Since he could no longer flood the world with his notes, Uncle Sam could not continue to consume far, far more wealth than he produced. Uncle Sam sunk into a deep depression as he watched the scheme fall apart all around him.
Uncle Sam had once been the wealthiest man on the entire planet, but now he was a broke, tired old man that was absolutely drowning in debt. Unfortunately, once he was down on his luck the rest of the world did not have any compassion for him. In fact, much of the rest of the world celebrated the downfall of Uncle Sam.
All of this could have been avoided if Uncle Sam had never agreed to Fred’s crazy scheme. And once Uncle Sam made the decision to stop backing his notes with gold, it was only a matter of time before the scheme was going to collapse.
Does this little story sound crazy to you? It shouldn’t. The truth is that you are involved in such a scheme right now. In case you haven’t figured it out, “Uncle Sam” is the United States, the “notes” are U.S. dollars, and “Fred” is the Federal Reserve.
Please share this story with as many people as you can. Our country is headed for complete and total financial disaster, and we need to get people educated about this while there is still time.
Courtesy of CBC, what if the same applied to all animals and we as a species have been ignorant and arrogant to their languages? Lost in our ego….
Did that prairie dog just call you fat? Quite possibly. On The Current Friday, biologist Con Slobodchikoff described how he learned to understand what prairie dogs are saying to one another and discovered how eloquent they can be.
Slobodchikoff, a professor emeritus at North Arizona University, told Erica Johnson, guest host of The Current, that he started studying prairie dog language 30 years ago after scientists reported that other ground squirrels had different alarm calls to warn each other of flying predators such as hawks and eagles, versus predators on the ground, such as coyotes or badgers.
Prairie dogs, he said, were ideal animals to study because they are social animals that live in small co-operative groups within a larger colony, or “town” and they never leave their colony or territory, where they have built an elaborate underground complex of tunnels and burrows.
In order to figure out what the prairie dogs were saying, Slobodchikoff and his colleagues trapped them and painted them with fur dye to identify each one. Then they recorded the animals’ calls in the presence of different predators.
‘With a sudden intuition, I thought, “What if they’re describing the physical features of each predator?”‘
—Con Slobodchikoff, biologist
They found that the animals make distinctive calls that can distinguish between a wide variety of animals, including coyotes, domestic dogs and humans. The patterns are so distinct, Slobodchikoff said, that human visitors that he brings to a prairie dog colony can typically learn them within two hours.
But then Slobodchikoff noticed that the animals made slightly different calls when different individuals of the same species went by.
“With a sudden intuition, I thought, ‘What if they’re describing the physical features of each predator?'” he recalled.
He and his team conducted experiments where they paraded dogs of different colours and sizes and various humans wearing different clothes past the colony. They recorded the prairie dogs’ calls, analyzed them with a computer, and were astonished by the results.
Clothing colour, size described
“They’re able to describe the colour of clothes the humans are wearing, they’re able to describe the size and shape of humans, even, amazingly, whether a human once appeared with a gun,” Slobodchikoff said.
The animals can even describe abstract shapes such as circles and triangles.
Also remarkable was the amount of information crammed into a single chirp lasting a 10th of a second.
“In one 10th of a second, they say ‘Tall thin human wearing blue shirt walking slowly across the colony.'”
Besides being a researcher, Slobodchikoff is an author of the book Chasing Doctor Doolittle: Learning the Language of Animals, in which he profiles many other animals with complex language, including crows and ravens, chickens and vervet monkeys. He believes complex speech is probably common within the animal kingdom.
“It’s just that we have not looked,” he said. He blames the fact that humans have long assumed animals are incapable of such intelligence.
Slobodchikoff said he has been working with a computer scientist to develop a device that uses voice pattern recognition techniques and artificial intelligence to translate between human and animal speech.
“We could potentially have something maybe the size of a cellphone in five to 10 years where a dog would say, ‘Woof’ and the device would say. ‘I want to eat chicken tonight” or a cat could say, ‘Meow,’ and the device would say, ‘My litterbox is filthy, please clean it.'”
He thinks if humans and dogs could understand one another more clearly, it would reduce the number of animals euthanized each year because of behavioural problems, which he blames on a lack of communication. In the meantime, Slobodchikoff said, he has found that just knowing that animals can share complex ideas makes people more empathetic toward them.
“When people realize that prairie dogs and other animals as well can talk … suddenly they see these animals with a new perspective,” he said. “They’re actually thinking, breathing things not that much different from us.”
I staunchly believe that austerity is a smokescreen and George Osborne is the most inept Chancellor in British political history. Massive economic waste from the public sector, increasing public debt and deficit where austerity was meant to reduce this and Osborne’s help to buy scheme which will inflate another housing bubble. These are treasonous acts against the British public and future generations to come.
George Osborne is a fool of the highest order, I’d personally call him a financial terrorist, devoid of common sense, ideas, leadership and morality…AUSTERITY DOES NOT WORK! He is skirting round a problem which requires decisive and honest leadership, the exact opposite of Osborne.
Courtesy of the Spectator:
When the Chancellor stands up to present his spending review next Wednesday it will be with the reputation of a crazed axeman. Much of the country, whether it thinks it a good thing or not, subscribes to the belief that George Osborne is shrinking the state year-on-year, slicing here, chopping there. In a recent poll 58 per cent of respondents agreed with the proposition that Osborne’s ‘austerity drive’ is ‘harming the economy’. Twenty per cent agreed that it was the ‘correct medicine’.
Yet it was a trick question based on a faulty premise: that there has been an austerity drive. The truth is that public spending has risen under this government — and in real terms, too. In 2009-10 public sector current expenditure, adjusted to 2011-12 prices, was £634.2 billion. By 2011-12 it was £645.7 billion and in 2012-13 it is projected to have been £647.1 billion. A more correct question for the pollsters to ask would be: do you think that George Osborne should stop flinging our money about, and actually begin the austerity drive that he keeps talking about?
Osborne is no mad axeman but a bodger blundering around with a blunt chisel. Go back further and you can see just how absurd is the notion that the coalition has turned Britain into neoliberal hell or paradise, depending on your point of view. In 1975/76, in the depths of economic crisis and shortly before Denis Healey went off to the IMF to beg for a bailout, public spending peaked at 39.8 per cent of GDP. In 2011/12 it was 42.2 per cent. That year, the then Labour government spent, in today’s money, £260 billion — less than half what the coalition will spend this year. In other words, the sub-socialist British state of the 1970s, with its nationalised car factories and shipyards, was smaller than it is now.
Yet George Osborne has never sought to challenge his axeman image. When challenged by Labour or the IMF over ‘austerity’ he has happily accepted the charge, protesting only that he still believes he is on the right course and will not be distracted.
He wants us to believe that big cuts are taking place. Take the Cabinet Office’s Efficiency and Reform Group, which crows about having made £5.5 billion worth of savings on the civil service last year and claims to be on its way to saving the taxpayer £20 billion by the next election, through such means as reducing the cost of employing temporary staff and improvements to procurement.
The National Audit Office was not so impressed, concluding recently that too many of the savings were only temporary in nature and that without proper reform it isn’t clear how the £20 billion target will be achieved. Yet it wouldn’t be hard to achieve the target if the government really wanted to. Even after the attentions of the Efficiency and Reform Group — which itself cost £72 million to run last year — civil servants are still enjoying two-and-a-half ‘privilege days’ a year on top of their bank holidays, they still qualify for a £75 evening dress allowance, and subsidised loans to buy bicycles.
The state has paid £500 million over the past three years to send the children of diplomats and military officers to public schools. Civil servants who began their careers before 2002 are still retiring at 60 and taxpayers are forking out £912,000 a year to subsidise flying lessons, diving lessons and trips to Barbados through the civil service sports council.
Dwarfing all this are bloated wages and salaries. Remember Osborne’s great public sector pay freeze, supposedly imposed for two years in 2012? Why, then, did the public sector pay bill rise from £165 billion in 2009/10 to £171 billion? The pay freeze was a mirage, through which many workers continued to enjoy fat increases in pay.
During the boom years the public sector unions liked to compare themselves with the private sector. But come the recession, when private sector pay started to fall, funnily enough they stopped doing so, with the result that according to the ONS, public sector pay is now 8.2 per cent higher than in the private sector. The Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA) has calculated that if public sector pay and pensions were reduced to bring them in line with their private sector equivalents, it would save the taxpayer £53 billion a year.
That is the sort of saving which a genuine austerity chancellor would be proposing — and indeed is the sort of saving which a future British government may have to make if the deficit is not closed and the country is forced, as it was under Healey, to seek a humiliating bailout from the IMF or elsewhere. We don’t need to have a deficit. The TPA went on to detail a total of £120 billion of possible savings a year: from the really big sums, including £20 billion from fraud, £15 billion on procurement and £5 billion on benefits paid to families with incomes of over £100,000 a year; to the petty level where public money continues to be frittered — such as £2.3 million a year subsidising the restaurants in the House of Lords, £683,000 refurbishing 10 Downing Street, and £20 million spent translating council documents into obscure languages for the benefit of hardly anyone.
The TPA reached its £120 billion figure while hardly touching the swollen NHS, education and International Development budgets which Osborne has ring-fenced. But why should these budgets be protected from the need to cut spending? Is the Chancellor really saying that no school, hospital or development agency is guilty of waste?
‘I guess they’re just trying to deal with the psychological torture of being in captivity.’
What about the £17.5 billion set aside for medical negligence claims, much of which will disappear into the pockets of lawyers? That could be trimmed in one go with an end to ‘no win, no fee’ agreements and the spurious claims that result from them. What about the £700,000 spent sending staff at NHS England on team-building exercises, the £4,800 spent on breast implants for an aspiring model who claimed that having small breasts was ruining her life, or the average £2,492 spent sending patients on ‘exercise referral schemes’ — i.e. subsidised gym and dance classes?
What about the money wasted on iPads and interactive whiteboards for schools? What about the £5 million spent organising a Question Time-type show in Bangladesh or £25 million spent on climate change adaptation in Kenya, part of which was used to help tribal ‘rainmakers’ to come up with a consensus weather forecast with the country’s meteorological service?
What George Osborne has failed to appreciate is that public spending is a monster which will happily munch through every possible resource held in front of it. It takes ruthlessness just to keep it under control, let alone to shrink budgets. Generating headlines about ‘heartless cuts’ on the Today programme — something which has been achieved by every government in living memory, Gordon Brown’s included — doesn’t mean you are reducing the deficit; it just means you are holding back from funding some extravagance which someone, somewhere would like you to fund.
While saving pennies matters, the public budget will never be balanced again unless government is prepared to tackle the really big items of expenditure: health care, welfare and education. The government has tried quite hard to rein in the benefits bill but has ultimately surrendered, and has now settled for a slower rise than had previously been predicted. But when it comes to the largest item of the Department for Work and Pensions’ budget — the state pension — the government has not even tried to rein in costs. Quite needlessly, it has committed to increasing the state pension with a ‘triple lock’: guaranteeing to raise it by inflation, average earnings or 2.5 per cent, whichever is greater.
The result is that even if the cost of living falls — as it did in 2008/09 — the state pension will still be jacked up by 2.5 per cent. The projected cost of the triple lock is eye-watering: within 20 years the annual bill for the state pension will rise — at 2012 prices — from £63 billion to £106 billion, or from 4 per cent to 4.4 per cent of GDP.
One appreciates that pensioners get jolly angry — and with some justification get upset when they read about benefit claimants receiving more than they do — but why the need, in the middle of a budgetary crisis, to treat them to a more generous deal than any government has previously offered them? The coalition seems to be at war over welfare, with Nick Clegg at the weekend threatening to block reform if benefits for wealthy pensioners are not also cut back. There is a perfectly simple solution to satisfy both sides of the coalition: cut the benefits and don’t increase the pensions above inflation.
Osborne has all too easily allowed himself to be smothered by the argument advanced by Ed Balls, the IMF and others that only public spending keeps us out of the quagmire of recession. In its extreme Gordon Brown form, this doctrine arrives at the conclusion that there cannot be any such thing as public sector waste: every penny spent by the government, regardless of purpose, is necessarily another penny sloshing around the economy which otherwise would not be. It is a theory which has a rather obvious fatal flaw: the penny spent by the government must come from somewhere. If it does not come directly out of the pockets of individuals and businesses, it comes from borrowings which must eventually be repaid. What really matters is whether the penny is being productively spent. Because the public sector has such a dire record on productivity, a transfer of resources from private to public sector is going to have a negative effect on economic growth.
It was a lesson best demonstrated in Sweden, a country often held up as an example of the good of public spending, but which saw a dramatic increase in growth between the mid-1980s and the mid-2000s when spending was slashed. In the first decade of that period, economic growth averaged 1.5 per cent a year. In the second decade of that period, during which public spending was progressively cut from 71 per cent to 51 per cent of GDP, the economy grew by an average of 4.5 per cent a year.
A braver chancellor than George Osborne would not be boasting about cuts and then gingerly trimming a bit around the edges while maintaining public spending above 40 per cent of GDP; he would be delivering a spending review which reduced public spending closer to the 30 per cent mark (it touched 34 per cent in 1999, before Gordon Brown’s spending splurge). Anaemic growth is not a function of cuts in public spending, of which there have been none. It is a result of a swollen public sector trapped in low productivity.
The art of taxation, observed Mark Twain, is like plucking a goose to obtain the greatest amount of feathers while suffering the minimum amount of hissing. In attempting to cut public spending, George Osborne has achieved the exact opposite: he finds himself cornered in a shed by the hissing, spitting goose of public spending, whose feathers are growing faster than he can pick them out.